The Perks of Being a Wallflower
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is the film version of the hit 1999 Young Adult book of the same name. The epistolary novel, by Stephen Chbosky, a kind of Catcher in the Rye narrative, remains quite popular and has been banned in several schools, presumably for its honesty. No doubt, many teens and adults alike will be looking forward to this adaptation and rightly so.
The film stars Logan Lerman ( Percy Jackson) as Charlie, a soft and shy emotionally reticent teen who faces his first day of high school, which at first, might be as scary as Stephen King's Carrie with packs of big oversized kids ready to knock some heads. Charlie, who is a bit like Peter Parker in the Tobey McGuire version of "Spiderman", inches and smirks his way through classes. We know he's bright---he's the first one to speak up in English class and he takes everything in, including insults with a Zen passivity leaving only quizzical expressions in his wake. Charlie is not really a nerd at all, it's just that he is a bit misplaced, having been in a mental hospital for a long stretch and not able to talk with anyone beyond his family for months.
By chance, the energetic and theatrical iconoclast Patrick, played with some fiery and very comic gusto by Indie heartthrob Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin) becomes drawn to Charlie and vice versa. Patrick becomes an entertaining and protective friend to Charlie and also his vehicle for an entrance into a new glib and sophisticated world---a figure of light antic fun that illuminates Charlie's melancholic suburban Pittsburgh. Charlie, as we might guess, also becomes smitten by the waif-like Sam (Emma Watson) who is Patrick's stepsister by marriage. Patrick and Sam take to Charlie almost instantly and we might wonder why given the fact that Charlie doesn't say much of anything.
But then, as if by magic, it all changes with a pot brownie. Charlie becomes devil-tongued and catty, a bit like Ferris Bueller and Truman Capote. No one can believe that such wild and witty things have been uttered by the pale and wilting Charlie.
Awesome! Patrick and Sam, it appears, have made a good choice in this misfit friend.
But OMG! all is not rosy in this precocious Teen-terrain. Charlie's disturbing visions return: he is consumed with guilt over his aunt's sudden death. Not to mention, his devastating honest faux pas during a game of Truth Or Dare.
Under less competent hands, this film might have been a mere diversion. Charlie is a bit like a John Hughes character from the 80s, as is Sam. Emma Watson does bear an uncanny resemblance to Molly Ringwald in "The Breakfast Club". And Ezra Miller is like a galvanic and churning Matthew Broderickish actor swimming with electricity and the characters spend a bit of time moping and slinking around, commiserating and wondering "why me?" just as in the past.
What makes this film so watchable is the superb and crisp direction by the author Stephen Chbosky himself.
The depiction of Charlie's fugues specifically, are emotional and stirring, as is the acting of Ezra Miller who is magnetic and full of dynamism with not a stale note in his role. While Patrick's enthusiasm for "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" might not be so surprising these days, Miller's immediacy is, and he captures his role.
Young odd ones who listen to David Bowie or Morrissey are nothing new by now, but the film has a buoyant retro feeling that entrances as it entertains. The Perks of Being a Wallflower's greatest and most sincere trick is that it makes everything old seem new again, and applaudably so. Write Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org